Munroe & Watson and Ors 2014 FamCA 112

Three children were involved born of two fathers.  The oldest child lived with its father and the two younger children had been removed from the mother at birth.  An issue was whether the maternal grandparents were appropriate long term carers for the two younger children.

The child protection Department gave evidence about the extensive criminal history of the second father including sexual offences and concluded that he posed a risk to the safety of the children.  The mother responded to concerns expressed by the Department by saying that she wanted to help in clearing the second father’s name, saying that he had been “stitched up” and that “he should have never been in prison”.  The mother signed a safety plan that she would not live with the second father or allow the child to have contact with the second father, but the mother breached this agreement (capacity to protect).

An assessor found that the mother accepted what the second father said about his conviction without questioning his explanations, and seemed to be fully dependent on him.  The assessor concluded that the mother did not appear able to implement what was best for her children in the face of pressure from the second father, and she had relinquished her responsibilities with regards to being a parent (personality dependent).

The Department initially held concerns about the suitability of the maternal grandparents to provide long term care for the children due to uncertainty about the ability of the grandparents to cooperate with the Department and to prioritise their relationship with the child over their relationship with their own daughter and therefore their ability to protect the child from harm.  The mother expressed unwillingness to allow the maternal grandparents to spend time with the children.  The Department acknowledged that the maternal grandparents accepted that the mother and the second father posed a risk to the children and were willing to prioritise children’s needs before the mother’s needs.

The judge ordered that the two younger children transfer to the long term care of the maternal grandparents at the end of the 12 month order when the children were in the care of the Department.